Saturday, December 07, 2013

Holding the Rating Companies to Account: LAPFF 2013

Dan Drosman from the USA Class Action law firm, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd spoke about
suing Rating companies after the 2008 Financial Crisis debacle.

At first it was thought that heads would roll in the big rating firms who had listed loads of companies as being super safe triple AAA only for them to go bust.

It had been claimed by agencies beforehand that if they rated a company as "AAA" this meant that the company could survive a "great depression" or even world wars. Some in the event never even lasted a month.

Rating agencies had claimed that under the USA constitution 1st amendment they could not be sued since they only ever gave "comment" which was protected as free speech. Dan was a former Federal Prosecutor and he was able to win an early civil court judgement that "fraud" was not protected by a free speech defence.  He was able to pursue a class action case against S&P and Moody over clients who had lost hundreds of millions of dollars in an British based AAA rated company. 

The allegation was that pre-2008 the agencies knew that the companies they were rating AAA had no historical data to justify such a rating. They would quote "stick their finger up in the air" to make up a rating in order to keep market share and also earn huge personal bonuses.

Eventually the rating agencies settled the case before it went to court. The details of the settlement is confidential but press reports of the time reported it was worth $227 million.

The USA government is currently suing the rating agencies.

Personally, I think it is clear that there are serious and substantiated allegations that senior Executives at these agencies knowingly profited from dishonest fraudulent activities. I hope the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) will be holding these Executives to account for these allegations sometime very soon.

If not, why not?

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